Police say children as young as three may have been involved in coven’s ceremonies.
Two members of a Cornish white witch coven have been convicted of carrying out ritualistic sex abuse on young girls.
Peter Petrauske, 72, who claimed to be a high priest, and Jack Kemp, 69, donned robes and carried pagan artifacts when they attended ceremonies during which children were forced to strip and then abused. Police believe children as young as three may have been involved.
The abuse only emerged after Kemp was arrested on an unrelated charge, prompting victims of past offenses to come forward.
The pair showed little emotion as they were led from the dock at Truro crown court on Friday. Petrauske, who described himself as the high priest of a white witches’ coven in St Ives, was convicted of one count of rape, one count of aiding and abetting an attempt to rape and one count of indecent assault.
Kemp was found guilty of indecent assault and indecency with a child. He was cleared of four other sexual offenses. The jury is still considering verdicts on several other sexual offenses.
Police launched an investigation last year when Kemp’s arrest caused rumors to spread around their home town of Falmouth.
Alleged victims claimed that Kemp, an ex-soldier and tin miner, and Petrauske, a former member of the merchant navy, had taken part in rituals during which children as young as three were plied with alcohol, forced to strip in front of men wearing white robes and abused. They were given money and sweets to buy their silence and were too frightened to report what had happened, it was claimed.
Prosecutor Jason Beal said children’s wrists were tied and some reported having hot wax poured over their bodies; one said a dagger had been drawn over her body.
Beal said the duo “used the cloak of paganism” to commit the offenses against children, arguing they were not pagans but child abusers.
One woman told how, at the age of five, she and other children attended a ritual at a stone circle with a fire in the center. Petrauske and Kemp were among the men there, wearing “gown things” and necklaces, she said.
In a video of her interview played in court, the woman described sitting down next to a sobbing boy. “I didn’t understand what was going on and was scared,” she said.
“The chanting stuck in my head for weeks,” she added. “I didn’t understand what it was all about, I just thought they were weird. I was warned that if I was naughty they would hurt me, that they had special powers.” She said she was abused by Petrauske and Kemp.
The woman, who cannot be named, also said she was raped by another man, a former parish councilor called Peter Solheim who was associated with witchcraft in Cornwall.
Solheim’s body was found by fishermen five miles off the Lizard Peninsula in 2004. He had been drugged and mutilated with a machete or an axe.
The woman told the Truro jury that she was bound and raped by Solheim when she was nine on a bed fitted with chains and a black whip with “star things on the ends”.
In the witness box Petrauske – also known as German Pete – said he had been a pagan for 55 years and had an altar in his bedroom. He accepted he had a dagger and whip but insisted they were all for ceremonial purposes only. He said he had no doubt the victims who gave evidence had been abused by men in robes but said he was not involved.
Women members of the coven said in court that nudity had played no part in the gatherings and described Petrauske as a “gentleman”. His counsel, Sean Brunton, said it was not “illegal to be a weirdo”.
Kemp said he suspected the victims were seeking compensation. His barrister, Jo Martin, said Kemp had only been to two or three coven meetings and found that paganism “wasn’t his cup of tea”. He had previous convictions for the indecent assault of a girl in the mid-60s but Martin said the jury could not convict someone on their previous behavior or associations.
The pair had denied all the offenses, which date back to the 1970s.